In the scramble to invent the battery of the future, many of the world’s brightest minds have focused on finding new materials for the parts that conduct the juice. Guihua Yu and his University of Texas research team focused on goo: a “self-healing” gel that could hold together the electrodes that tend to crack in next-generation batteries as they charge.

They got the gel to work late last year, according to a pair of peer-reviewed reports published in the scientific journal Nano Letters. The breakthrough has implications for technologies as small as an iPhone, as large as batteries that could power entire cities and as hip as Tesla’s electric cars.

It will be years before the gel is on the market, but the potential uses illustrate just how many sci-fi-sounding ideas are nearly a reality, thanks in part to advances in the “flexible electronics” field: phone batteries that could fix themselves; workout shirts with “biosensors” that could monitor someone’s heart rate; even, as a KUT report on Yu’s work noted“, robots that could heal themselves when damaged (Cue the T-1000 from Terminator 2”).

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